James Abraham, Godwin, Dennis Naku, Peter Dada and Raphael Ede
25 June 2021
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Two major socio-political groups in the North-Central, the Middle Belt Forum and the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, have dissociated themselves from the pan-northern association, the Arewa Consultative Forum.
The MBF and SOKAPU, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Thursday, said although they were not opposed to the ACF’s planned meeting with southern groups, they were not part of the Arewa forum.
The organisations stated this as southern groups said the need to restructure the country would be raised at the meeting.
The ACF, at its national executive council meeting in Kaduna on Wednesday, said it hoped to meet leaders of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere and the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo over rising insecurity in the country and other issues.
But the Spokesman for the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Isuwa Dogo, in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, said the group would not attend the meeting as part of the ACF.
Dogo said, “The Middle Belt Forum does not attend meetings with the ACF or any other group except with Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere and PANDEF (Pan-Niger Delta Forum). The four groups are together. So, if the ACF is meeting with those groups in the South , it also includes Middle Belt Forum.
“We are waiting for the agenda they have and we will respond appropriately when the agenda is made known to us.”
Dogo, who insisted that the people of Middle Belt had their cultural identity distinct from that of the ACF, said, “One thing you should know is that we are not part of whatever the ACF is doing .We have our own identity which is different from theirs.”
ACF pursuing Hausa/Fulani interest, agenda in opposite direction with ours – SOKAPU
Also, SOKAPU said it was not part of the ACF. It said the reason it would attend the meeting would be because its allies would be in attendance.
According to the Spokesman for SOKAPU, Luka Binniyat, the ACF cannot speak for the people of southern Kaduna.
He added that the ACF was pursuing the agenda of the Hausa-Fulani people.
Binniyat said, “SOKAPU is not an appendage of the ACF. But if we will attend, it will be because the Middle Belt Forum, which is our mother body, will be attending. And it will also be that because our allies, PANDF, Afinefere and Ohaneze will be in attendance.
“The ACF is a select, privileged group of elites from the former Northern Region which is now 19 states. They have arrogated to themselves the role of speaking for the region.
“It has been led 98 per cent of the time by core Hausa/Fulani Muslims of the core north with a sprinkling of Middle Belters given curious roles over time. The ACF does not care about the plight of the people of Southern Kaduna and indeed for the Middle Belt.
“It is not known to stand for us in the midst of the unrelenting violence visited on us by armed herdsmen.
“That Audu Ogbe, an Idoma man, from the Middle Belt is its current chairman, is nothing but a ruse.
“It is deception to lure the Middle Belt and other parts of the country into thinking that the ACF is such an all inclusive forum, but we know the puppeteer.
“The ACF cannot speak for SOKAPU. It has never demonstrated any solidarity with our people. It’s hugely out to pursue the agenda of the Hausa/Fulani, which, in most cases, is in opposite directions with our own interest in SOKAPU.
“I don’t know what they want to discuss at the meeting. We have not seen the agenda of the meeting.
“But if SOKAPU will attend, our interest will be first and foremost the security and safety of our area. We shall table the issues of our captured 108 territories and the thousands of internally displaced persons from these areas.
“The issue of restructuring of Nigeria is also on top of our demands. The unjust treatment of our people and unfair infrastructure and project allotment; political appointments, destruction of our traditional institution and irrational demolition of homes and property of our people will also form our agenda.”
Restructuring, key to meeting with ACF – PANDEF
PANDEF said restructuring was key and fundamental to any meaningful discussion aimed at moving Nigeria forward.
National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson said this to one of our correspondents on the phone.
Robinson said PANDEF was ready for a sincere meeting with ACF, pointing out that the restructuring of Nigeria was the forerunner to a myriad of issues.
He stated, “The fundamental issue is restructuring. It is the structure of the country that has given birth to all the other others issues primarily. Even the economic issues, security issues
“People are aggrieved because of the uneven distribution of oil resources particular for us in the South-South. We produce about 80 to 85 per cent of the resources and we get less than 20 per cent.
“Our places not developed. Our people are suffering. Livelihoods have been devastated. Our environments have been degraded. Those are the issues.
“For some other parts of the country, the issues of killer herdsmen and all that. They are all issues related to how the country is being run.
“So, restructuring is the ABC and to Z of Nigeria’s problems. If we restructure the faulty way leaders emerge, the arrogance of elected officials, the lack of regard of the citizens will end.
“So, the restructuring is wholistic and not just about derivation. It is not about devolution. It is about electoral reforms.
“Well, if they are serious and sincere and we seat with them to talk, because every issue is settled on a round table where there is mutual respect and understanding. And all that we have been asking for is a national consensus. Let us agree that things are not working.
“We have been operating a system for about 60 years and the country has not made much progress. And we cannot continue in this manner. That is the fact.
“So, if they have come to the realisation that maybe what these people are saying is real, of course they know it is real but because of the benefits they get from the faulty, flawed, military imposed dictatorial constitution, they don’t want changes.” Everything is skew in their favour, including the membership of the National Assembly.”
Ohanaeze lists four issues
On its part, Ohanaeze Ndigbo listed four major issues it would discuss with the ACF.
According to the group, the four issues are restructuring, 2023 presidency, inclusion of Igbo in appointment of security chiefs and reciprocity of Igbo hospitality in their domains.
Spokesperson for Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, who spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone, maintained that Ohanaeze position was well-defined, adding “if you ask any Nigerian what is Ohanaeze’s position, he will always tell you. We have never missed words.
Ogbonnia however, said “It can be classified into four major broad areas: one, presidency 2023 as a matter of equity and fairness. In 2023, presidency should go to the Igbo.
“Two, the whole Southern governors including Ohanaeze have agreed on structuring Nigeria. The essence of restructuring is to see how we can unlock the potential of the teaming young Nigerians. On the other hand if Nigeria is restructured it will give vent to various hunt of talents. It will help unleash talents among the all segments of Nigerians. That is, it will be an opportunity available to us to explore the mineral resources within our reach and also to help expand the economic base of the people of Nigeria. Above all, it will reduce tension at the centre, because the more Nigeria is restructured the less the tension at the centre. It is to the advantage of everybody.
“Third, in the current dispensation, the Igbo have been complaining that of all the entire security architecture of Nigeria, no person from the South-East is found worthy. It is not good and we are going to discuss it.
“Fourth, Do unto others as they do unto you. The Igbo wherever we are are very hospitable. When other people come to South-East, we are very hospitable.”
Meeting of ACF will give room for national development discussion – Afenifere
Also, the Secretary General of the Afenifere, Mr Sola Ebiseni, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the meeting would give room for discussions that would pertain to the development of the country.
He said, “We have only read about the proposed meeting in the media, like most other Nigerians and would not like to speculate on the agenda. We believe in dialogue among stakeholders for the progress and development of Nigeria. For instance, the Jonathan administration brought together the various groups, including representatives of all ethnic nationalities in the 2014 National Conference and we all came up with resolutions to move Nigeria forward.
“The high point of that conference was that all the resolutions were arrived at by consensus. Since then, there have been pressures on government for the implementation of the report of the conference. The Afenifere, Ohaneze, PANDEF and the Middle Belt Forum (Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum) have several times met, formed synergy and resolved unanimously on moving the country forward, using the conference report as minimum template for restructuring the Nigerian political architecture.
“The initiative of the Arewa Consultative Forum joining the rest of us mentioned is a welcome development.” ,,